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Captain Dustin Brown sets the tone for Kings

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Drew Doughty almost shakes his head at the thought of having to defend Dustin Brown in a Stanley Cup Playoffs series.

As one half of the Los Angeles Kings' shutdown defensemen pair, with Rob Scuderi, Doughty has a good view of a postseason stamped by Brown's greatest hits package.


Done. Wrap it up. Over

I think the Kings are going to wrap up the series and have a nice layoff before the third round. They're just so confident right now. They see a wounded dog and they're just going to put it down. This team is rolling. I had it in 1992 with Chicago when we won 11 straight games going into the (Stanley Cup) Final. When you get on a roll like this, you don't think you can be beat. You just attack. And when you have a goaltender like Jonathan Quick, you can go after it. Just go. If you make a mistake, he'll back you up.

The playoffs have been very unpredictable. I thought this would be a low-scoring matchup and it's actually been a high-scoring series. The Blues have to change that and try to get back to the defensive style of game. If they try to get into a track meet with L.A., they're going to get killed. The real key for St. Louis will be to find a way to survive the first period, then play a boring defensive-style game and just pick away at the Kings. They can't let the L.A. fans get into the game. They have to slow the game down, because the Kings are flying. They also need a big game from their goaltender, Brian Elliott.

-- Jeremy Roenick

There was the shoulder-on-shoulder hit on Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, perhaps the defining play of the playoffs so far. There was his big bump that nearly sent St. Louis captain David Backes into the bench, and his hip check of Alex Pietrangelo, in Game 3 of the semifinals.

Brown gives as good as he gets, too. There was his mid-air flying sprawl courtesy of Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa. He bounced off Backes like BBs off a battleship in Game 2.

"It takes a toll on you," said Doughty, who played against Brown in the 2010 Winter Olympics. "As a D-man, getting hit so many times throughout a game, it gets annoying, it gets frustrating. Someone that hits as hard as him, it would be hard for me not to slash him back after that one where he just knocked you down."

While the leadership of Mike Richards has also helped make L.A. the most dangerous team in the playoffs, perhaps no player has set the tone like Brown.

"I've played with guys like that, but Brown, definitely, probably [is] the best I've ever seen at it," Doughty said.

Doughty was only 19 when he broke in with Los Angeles. By then, Brown was already four seasons in with the Kings -- none of which included a playoff appearance. The past two seasons were marked by first-round exits and continued questions about when this young team would fulfill potential.

In that regard, Brown is literally the face of the Los Angeles Kings, scarred and bruised by his physical style and hungry to end decades of organizational failure. L.A. enters Game 4 of the semifinals Sunday ahead, 3-0, on St. Louis, and one victory away from the second conference finals appearance in team history.

"It's exciting for me," Brown said. "I've been here my whole career. We've had some pretty bad years, and the last few that we've made some progress, this is a fun time to be an L.A. King as well."

Brown then cautions that, while buzz picks up in a normally Los Angeles Lakers-obsessed city, "It's just trying to stay focused and take it a game at time, because if you start thinking ahead, things can change in a hurry."

That would aptly describe the scenario that boiled over before the February trade deadline, when Brown's name surfaced in trade rumors. Whether it was true or not [Kings general manager Dean Lombardi did not respond to an interview request for this story], the thinking was that Brown was part of the losing culture in L.A. and it was time for a shake-up. The fact that the Kings were struggling to make the playoffs under heavy preseason expectations made it all plausible, at least in the Twitter-driven media climate.

It ended up igniting Brown, who is skating differently this season because he is tying his skates looser. He had eight goals and 15 assists over the final 21 games of the regular season, almost half his season-ending point total. Brown then became blue collar star of the first round with an NHL single-game playoff record tying two shorthanded goals in Game 2 of the quarterfinals. He had the only goal of Game 3, and has two shorthanded assists against St. Louis.

Brown at first said he didn't give much credence to the trade rumors, but during the Vancouver series said that, "It's always in the back of your mind. When you're name's out there, you definitely want to prove people wrong. I'm a pretty self-motivated person as it is. The rumors and whatever happens at deadline, as a player, you always hear about it. It's not like I didn't hear about it, but at the same time, I knew I could be better than I was in the first half of the year."


Kings take 3-0 series lead with 4-2 win

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent
The Kings took advantage of a rare off-night by St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott on the way to a 4-2 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals. The victory gave the eighth-seeded Kings a 3-0 lead in the series. READ MORE ›

Opponents have naturally made Brown a marked man, literally. He took a puck in the face and the business-end of a Henrik Sedin elbow in the quarterfinals.

Brown hasn't bit back. He induced St. Louis into three penalties in Game 3 to facilitate the Blues' disintegration. Brown isn't surprised at how teams have reacted to him.

"You got to try to go after, get guys off their game," Brown said. "Maybe I've done that -- got the best of them so far this series. They got to find a way. If they try to go after me, I think that's a good thing for us. I've been able to handle it. I've handled it in situations, regular-season games. Guys don't like me too much just in the way that I play. I try to be hard on their top guys, and I don't think any team really likes that."

The Kings cannot be much more pleased with how Brown, 27, has grown into the captain's role. Known earlier in his career and famously teased by former teammate Sean Avery for his lisp, Brown is thoughtful and well-spoken. He's also got his hands full off the ice with three young children.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter talks big about leadership during this playoff run, and Brown is the embodiment of Sutter's lead-by-example philosophy. Sutter has actually grown annoyed from reporters asking him to wax poetic about Brown.

But, Sutter certainly appreciates having the Brown-Richards leadership dynamic.

"It's always better from the team standpoint, player standpoint, coaching standpoint, that they have a strong identity, because that's how you want the team to play," Sutter said. "We're fortunate because we have Mike Richards and Brown both that are close in those areas in terms of leadership."

Teammates use a typical Sutter adjective to describe Brown.

"He's not a rah-rah guy," Matt Greene said. "We don't have too many of those guys in the room, but he's awesome."

As one of the tenured Kings, Brown is aware of L.A.'s underwhelming playoff history and reluctant to talk about it how close they are to changing it. But Doughty said it is significant to Brown.

"He played here forever and they hadn't even made the playoffs," Doughty said. "Now that he's finally been in a couple of series and we're making it a little further, I know how much fun it is for him to finally have this opportunity as a member of the Kings. And right now, we're having fun with it. But I know he's making sure every single one of us isn't getting too high on each other."

L.A.'s season has unfolded much like Brown's with a slow start, a crisis in February and then the spring fruition.

The Kings seemingly can't be stopped. Those in their way have to go through Brown and his wide shoulders and cut-up face.

"It was an up-and-down year for this team," he said. "It was a hard year, a lot of adversity. I think there were hints at the trade deadline – bringing in [Jeff Carter] was a big acquisition for us. Our belief system hasn't changed from Game 1 to Game 82 to right now. We've always thought we've had a good team. Now we're capable of playing to our abilities."

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